Study Guide

The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 4

By Thomas Hardy

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Chapter 4

  • Flashback! The narrator tells us that Susan has never told Elizabeth-Jane the story of her life, because she doesn't want her daughter to think less of her.
  • Susan thought she was legally and morally obliged to live with Newson as his wife. She thought the auction was a binding agreement and that she wasn't committing adultery by living with Newson.
  • The narrator makes it clear that we're not supposed to blame Susan for any of this.
  • For years Susan and Newson lived together, and Elizabeth-Jane grew up thinking of Newson as her father.
  • But then, while Newson was away (as a sailor, he was away a lot), Susan confided to a female friend that she had been sold to Newson by her first husband.
  • The friend told her that she was in no way obliged to live with Newson as his wife and that her relationship to him was a joke.
  • Susan was miserable, and when Newson returned, he saw that she was uncomfortable with him.
  • The relationship didn't last much longer – he left on another trip and got caught in a bad storm.
  • Susan received word that her husband had drowned and hadn't left them very much money.
  • Elizabeth-Jane was almost grown up, and Susan wanted to give her daughter an opportunity to see more of the world. She decided to track down Michael Henchard to see if he could help them out.
  • End of flashback!
  • The two women arrive at Casterbridge and there's some kind of commotion.

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